A Christian college in Massachusetts requested the freedom to live out its ideals, and since some powerful people don’t share those ideals they’re set to destroy Gordon College—unless it agrees to retreat to the closet.
In June, Gordon’s president added his name to a public letter asking President Obama to not force religious organizations into hypocrisy. Obama plans an executive order that would be the equivalent to many organizations of forcing Human Rights Campaign to hire adherents of Westboro Baptist Church. It would force anyone who receives federal funds to hire people whose sexual conduct disgraces all the world’s major religions.
Gordon, like every other observant religious institution in the world, does not want to be forced to hire people that represent the opposite of what it stands for. For that, it’s been pilloried in the press and persecuted by apparently every local public official who gets morally high from judging Gordon’s beliefs. It has already lost a contract with a local town to manage its historic town hall, and its accreditation will soon be under review—all for merely signing a letter. Gordon is only the vanguard. There is far more of this ahead, for every religious school, charity, parachurch organization, and even churches. So it’s time to pay attention to the tenderhooks of tyranny.
Don’t Take Federal Money, Even Though It’s Yours
Gordon is at federal mercy, first, because it takes federal money. Nearly every college receives federal funds, because the federal government is the nation’s largest sponsor of subprime higher education—meaning, of course, it is by far the largest provider of student loans, made freely available without discrimination upon the basis of academic merit or likelihood of college completion.
This would be only an economic problem, not an individual liberty problem (besides the tax extortion), if the feds ever sent people’s tax dollars back to them with no control measures attached. But they don’t. Control is half the point of getting it in the first place. It’s a fishing expedition, and you’re the catch. Although a few other colleges (such as my alma mater, Hillsdale) realized some time ago that federal money inherently threatens freedom, most are so hooked they would now have to dissolve if they did not accept it. Liberty University, for example, of Virginia and Jerry Falwell fame, regularly makes news for being among the top consumers of federal Pell Grants. It got a cool $81 million from the feds in 2010-11.
This isn’t just a college problem. It’s a charity problem, and parachurch problem, as our own Mollie Hemingway made very clear when discussing the World Vision debacle. It’s even a private K-12 school problem, since private schools can take federal lunch money (and its accompanying, idiotic regulations), have their teachers trained by their public school competitors, and more.
Accreditation May Be Worse
The danger to Gordon’s accreditation, however, may be worse, because it’s a far less visible instrument of control. Without accreditation, it’s difficult for an education institution to function, because accreditation gives the school a license to hand out real diplomas, and for its course credits to transfer to other institutions. As one might expect, that’s really important to schools’ customers.
In K-12, states regulate private school curriculum and teacher preparation (aka everything a child learns and how he learns it) through accreditation. So far accreditors have been content to demand low academics, Progressive curriculum, and fuzzy teaching methods, but in the current climate it’s no stretch to think not just the feds but also some state and private accreditors will demand that private schools condone gay sex. In higher education, accreditation is also a hoop schools have to jump through to get federal funds, but even worse, the feds are directly involved in determining what hoops a school has to jump through to get accredited. So even if a school did not receive federal funds, it could be pressured on myriad fronts by the federal government or anyone else with power and an agenda through its accreditation agency. Such are the dangers of centralizing power, and allowing the government to do what private individuals and coalitions can manage much better themselves. It hands tyrants tools for oppression.
President Obama is clearly aware of the federal power over accreditation—he’s proposed changes to the accreditation process that involve more intimate data-collection on students, among other things. Since government-regulated accreditation does essentially nothing to improve school quality and is therefore a giant exercise in providing sustenance for the mosquito-like bureaucracy, and now a tool for potential religious discrimination, it’s time to abolish it.
Back to Gordon College, however. It is now excruciatingly clear we live in a time where some people who have political power are on a crusade against people who, in their view, commit moral thoughtcrime. A religious college loses all reason for existence if it must conform to a diametrically opposite moral code. It makes no sense for a school to hire teachers to teach children, among other things, that sex belongs in marriage between a man an woman, if that very teacher’s actions negate his or her words. Such a teacher must either lie to children, or the school must. (Perhaps the entire goal is to expose children to such forced hypocrisy.) If a religious school cannot act as a religious school, it logically cannot exist. It can only shift its morality to match that of its oppressors, or dissolve.
That may be the point.